Preliminary Results Indicate Slim Majority For Pro-Western Parties In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine: The parties loyal to President Viktor Yushchenko and his main Orange Revolution ally have won enough parliamentary seats to muster a majority and unseat Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, complete preliminary election results released Friday indicated.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) shares a light moment with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko at the Elysee Palace in Paris October 5, 2007.

But uncertainty loomed over the composition of the government in the ex-Soviet republic, as Yushchenko suggested he and his main partner in the peaceful 2004 upheaval, Yulia Tymoshenko, faced painstaking negotiations with their main opponents.

The early election was called to end a months-long political struggle between the president and premier. But the close vote left plenty of room for further turmoil in the divided nation as key political figures — with a history of bad blood and bickering — jockey for position.

Yushchenko had been expected to tap Tymoshenko as premier based on the two parties' majority, which looked increasingly certain as the preliminary vote count crawled toward completion in recent days.

But he said during a visit to France that the issue of the prime minister is "a question for the negotiations" — refusing to show firm support for Tymoshenko or publicly rule out a premier from Yanukovych's camp.

Since the vote, Yushchenko has urged all three major parties to launch coalition talks and look for ways to work together. He has also suggested that if his party and Tymoshenko's forge a majority coalition, the opposition should be given spots in the Cabinet.

But Yushchenko made it clear Friday that he was not advocating a broad coalition involving Yanukovych's force, only calling for giving his party Cabinet posts — a gesture apparently aimed to avoid angering millions of people in a nation polarized by regional, historical and linguistic divisions. Being formally part of the coalition would give his party the right to claim posts and dictate rules.

"I am not talking about a broad coalition, a grand coalition, but I am talking about dialogue between the three political forces, which will provide a spark to start parliament sessions," Yushchenko said in an interview with France 24 television.

He warned that with Yanukovych's force taking more than a third of the Verkhovna Rada's 450 seats, his party's failure to attend sessions would render the legislature illegitimate and prompt further turmoil.

"I propose a peaceful coexistence in a constructive mode," Yushchenko said.

Yushchenko said the makeup of the government would emerge only after negotiations.

Asked whether Tymoshenko could become premier, Yushchenko said: "Yes, it is possible. But I would like to say that this will take place after understanding is found first of all between the democratic majority and the opposition."

Analysts said Yushchenko may be reluctant to give carte blanche to Tymoshenko, a potential rival for the presidency in 2009. He may also be seeking to shore up the Orange parties' strength in parliament. The vote results indicated the two parties would have just two seats more than a majority of 226 in parliament, making for a shaky alliance in a sometimes-fickle parliament.

Oleksandr Turchinov, a senior member of Tymoshenko's party, said it was prepared to grant the opposition some influential parliamentary committee positions and perhaps some Cabinet posts, but firmly stated that it would not forge a coalition with Yanukovych.

The complete preliminary election results showed that the bloc led by Tymoshenko garnered 30.71 percent of the vote in Sunday's election and Yushchenko's party followed with 14.15 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. Yanukovych's Party of Regions received 34.37 percent, but fell short of the Orange forces' combined total.

The Communist Party received 5.39 percent and the force led by former parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn trailed behind with 3.96. No other parties cleared the 3 percent threshold needed to gain seats.

Full results had been slow in coming, with election officials taking three days to tally less than half a percent of the districts. Tymoshenko's party accused the Party of Regions of delaying the vote count in several polling stations in the south, one of its strongholds, in a bid to invalidate the election results.

Yanukovych's party denied the accusations.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were the linchpins of the Orange Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of Kiev claiming fraud in the 2004 presidential election. Yanukovych was initially declared the winner, but Yushchenko won a new vote after a court threw out the initial results, and named Tymoshenko his prime minister.

He fired her after seven months, and their bickering helped bring Yanukovych back to power as prime minister last year.

Yanukovych, who was backed by Moscow in 2004, has taken a more neutral stance since then, pledging to integrate with the rest of Europe, but is still seen as more Russia-friendly.

Source: International Herald Tribune